My daughter Maggie is only 3 but she already knows what she wants to be when she grows up.
But not just any princess. She wants to be a beautiful princess. And preferably, one who wears pink dresses. And does ballet.
Three years ago, I despised the princess craze. Why would I—I thought at the time—want my daughter to chase after an unattainable physical beauty that only resides in fantasies and Hollywood-style Disney movies?
But here I am, three years later, with a daughter who wants nothing more than to be pretty and to wear nail polish, and who wakes up every morning wanting to don the latest princess fashion.
How did I get here? Believe me, I didn’t promote it.
As much as I’d love to blame Disney, I really can’t. If I did that, then I might as well blame the football manufacturer who designed the kiddie pigskin her twin brother recently used to break a light bulb. Just as he is naturally attracted to physical activity, she has a natural yearning to be physically beautiful. And that latter concept terrifies me.
It scares me to think about my daughter growing up in a culture where a simple trip to the grocery store can turn into a fleshly battle, with society screaming at every turn: “You’re not beautiful enough!” There, on the billboard, is the perfect-looking Hollywood star, telling anyone who happens to look: “This is what you should look like.” And there, on the cover of the checkout-line magazine, is that same woman, only this time she’s lost half of her clothes and is promoting a “secret” diet and exercise routine that helped her lose all of that baby weight and get back down to 98 pounds!
Unless you have $50 million, a live-in nannie, a personal trainer, time to burn and an air brush, who can compete with that? Our culture’s objectification of women is to be loathed, but thankfully, Scripture gives us a better option. So what will I tell my daughter? This:
1. Worldly beauty is worthless.Oh, sure, it will get you fame in the big city for about five minutes and the boyfriend of your dreams, but as soon as someone younger and prettier walks in, you’ll be figuratively tossed in the back-lot dumpster along with all of the used Hollywood sets. Think back to the female stars of your youth. Why aren’t they popular today? It’s simple. They. Got. Old. For a society that worships youth, aging is a no-no. The Bible warned us long ago: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last” (Proverbs 31:30).
2. True beauty isn’t worldly. I tell my daughter she’s beautiful each and every day, simply because she needs to hear her father affirm her physical appearance—or else one day she’ll seek affirmation in boys who don’t have her best interests in mind. But I also tell her what God thinks about beauty: that He looks not at her outward appearance but at her “inner self” (1 Peter 3:4) and her heart (1 Samuel 16:7)—that is, whether she loves God and loves others. To God, true beauty is exactly the opposite of worldly beauty: To God, true beauty is eternal. To God, every single girl and every single woman—no matter what the world thinks—is “wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
3. Princess dresses are … well … OK.I want my daughter to chase first after God’s heart, but it would be wrong to fight her innocent God-given impulses. Consider: Why are almost all of the warnings about beauty in Scripture directed toward women? Because women have a natural desire to be pretty. I don’t mind my daughter wearing a princess dress and wanting to feel physically beautiful—as long as she is chasing after inward beauty and as long as she keeps her outward beauty in perspective. That is, as much as a 3-year-old can.
Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes college football, midnight debuts of Star Wars movies and pretty much any 80s group that involved big, wild-looking hair. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog? Email me: michaelfoust (at) gmail.com. Also, check out my video section.